This text directs us to the place where it all began, ‘He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.’ (Genesis 28:12). Jacob, the heal-catching surplanter, was encouraged by his mother Rebekah to go to Harran (Syria), several hundred miles away from where he lived. Esau intended to kill him. Rebekah wanted Jacob to marry a non-Canaanite woman. So ‘Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran.’ (Genesis 28:10). As the sunset, he laid down to sleep.
Jacob, the man who God changed. The Old Testament gospel. This was a life changing night. It was no dream but a drama. A dramatic change.
Jacob rests his head under the stars. What kind of night will it be? Here are 5 steps to this ladder and the unforgettable night:
Jacob was on the run, tired and lonely. He was probably missing the comforts of home. What kind of night did he have? He had a dream. Look how it’s described: ‘He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.’ (Genesis 28:12). Before the days of God’s written word, God often showed Himself in dreams (Nebuchadnezzar, Joseph). These were revelatory dreams. Look who was in the dream, ‘There above it stood the LORD.’(Genesis 28:13). God was offering to Jacob the pre-incarnate Jesus at the top of the stairs. This is corroborated by Jesus in John’s Gospel, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” (John 1:51). Jesus bridges the gap between earth and heaven. This is a theophany, a sighting of Christ.
What did he hear? ‘There above it stood the LORD and He said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.”’ (Genesis 28:13-15). He heard Jesus speaking to him. This is the covenant blessing given and received. Jacob’s ultimate offspring was the one speaking to him on that ladder. Will you take that first step on the ladder? Jesus is the only way. The cross of Calvary lets Jesus take you to glory. He is the only way to God, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6).
What type of night did Jacob have? It was the place where God met him. God gave Jacob access to Him and heaven itself. It’s life changing. It was the place of holy ground. ‘He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’ (Genesis 28:17). God was revealing Jesus to Jacob. ‘Awesome’ means reverential fear. A life-changing spiritual experience is truly awesome. We find God in strange places. Bethel was about 12 miles from Jerusalem. Luz was a wicked place. In verse 18 Jacob set the stone he had used as a pillow and ‘set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.’ In verse 19 we read Jacob ‘called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.’ God planted a church in the middle of Luz. God plants churches where they are needed. We are in the world, but not of it. God deals with perishing sinners. Spiritual death, as a result of the Fall, is like a sleep, but meeting Jesus is waking up. (Mark 5:39).
‘When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”’ (Genesis 28:16). What were the things he was unaware of? The presence of God in that place. When we go home we may be asked, “Who was in church this morning?” We list people’s names, but do we mention God? In the gospels Jesus Christ is seen as the Word. For 33 years His own knew Him not. At Calvary, ‘Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”’ (Luke 23.34). We also have been in God’s presence and been unaware of it. When you come to Penuel there are friendly faces, good singing, but are you aware of God in here, or just aware of a man preaching? We can be unaware of where we really are. This is the gate of heaven. When you hear the gospel preached, you are being shown the gate of heaven, the way to peace and glory itself. ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’ (Genesis 28:17). In this verse we see the awareness, the entrance and the elevation. Jesus declares, ‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.’ (John 10:9). Jesus is both the entrance and the elevation. Jesus is the gate for the sinner. Are you aware you are sitting in front of the gate this morning? Put your foot on the first step of the ladder to glory.
Jacob had a dream. Dreams can be nightmares. How can we explain Jacob was afraid? It was dark. We can often be afraid of the dark. Jacob, from childhood, would have shared his bed with his brother. But it wasn’t the dark that caused this fear in the heart of this man. In the gospel we see 12 grown men in a boat, some seasoned fishermen, terrified. They thought they saw a ghost (Matthew 14:26). They were more afraid of Jesus than the buffeting waves. Coming into the presence of Jesus, initially, can be fearful. ‘It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ (Hebrews 10:31). When you are confronted by God, Jesus comes to you as your Saviour, not your judge. He loved you enough to die for you on Calvary. When we come to Christ there may be an initial fear to commit our life to Him. Are you afraid to accept the truth?
‘He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.’ (Genesis 28:12). From that night on Jacob came alive to God. He made a vow. There was a miraculous change. Jacob believed the promises of God. God promises land, growth, security and much more. The gospel is full of promises, given by a God who cannot lie. Jacob changed, he came alive. The pearl of all promises, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16). He gives us an invitation, ‘Come unto me.’
Jacob need not run away any longer. We need to run to Jesus. ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.’ (John 10:27). Do you have that security? Will you believe His promises? ‘Then Jacob made a vow saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear, so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God.”’ (Genesis 28:20-21).
Is this Lord your God or are you looking to other gods? Will you accept Jesus as Jacob did, committing your life to Jesus? This is regeneration – being born again, treading the first rung on the ladder. ‘Whoever has the Son has life: whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.’ (1 John 5:12). Do you have life this morning? Have you been sleeping this morning? Wake up! A life change has apprehensions but now, do you have the life of God in your soul?